Pennington: Keeping Students Healthy and their Meals Nutritious


William Apostolica, Staff Writer

Perhaps one of the most refreshing parts of quarantine was the emphasis to get outside and exercise. Physical education has been a critical part of getting through lockdown, as it keeps our minds and bodies active and healthy. Jenny Pennington, a Physical Education and nutrition instructor at Colgate, helps students and community members stick by this notion and encourages healthy eating.

Pennington started teaching courses about nutrition seven years ago, with an additional focus on teaching physical education. Prior to the pandemic, Pennington’s P.E. classes were held in-person; however, with the shift to remote learning, they have recently been taught online. Last fall she started teaching a hybrid nutrition course in which students would meet one day a week and have an additional hour of independent work. During the summer, Pennington offered a class via Zoom for both Nutrition and Barre, and because enrollment was so high this semester, she was able to offer a Vitamins and Minerals course.

Even with the outbreak of COVID-19, Pennington has continued striving for the best in her work to help her students make the most out of the class. Her philosophy in teaching is to, “always provide basic nutritional tools to help students make healthy lifestyle choices.” Pennington described how the majority of college students receive their nutritional information from social media and it is crucial to understand that nutritional science is not black and white.

“It is important students hear from a professional in the field,” she said. 

In an online classroom, Pennington incorporates activities such as recording a dietary recall, reading food labels, understanding added sugars and learning about the anatomy of whole grain. An additional component of her classroom agenda that relates to COVID-19, is a section on proper hand hygiene and food handling. Sadly, since students are not learning in-person, Pennington cannot offer activities such as exploring serving sizes, basic cooking skills and even trying new foods. 

Despite the challenges of teaching this virtual setting, Pennington still finds ways to integrate a “hands-on learning” aspect into the curriculum. From comparing food labels to rewriting recipes, students are offered ways to use problem-solving techniques even from their computer. Methods like these have allowed Pennington to revive a semblance of hands-on learning even through Zoom, encouraging students to take one of her courses to learn more about what goes into building a healthy plate for daily meals.   

Outside of the classroom, Pennington has a variety of options for exercise and staying active during these times, including riding bikes with her kids and Zumba classes. She even has plans to start instructing Zumba classes again this coming summer. Exercise is a vital aspect of staying healthy and Pennington has managed to incorporate it into creative ways of keeping busy. 

At Colgate, Pennington’s favorite spot on campus is either the tennis courts or the fitness studio. Her favorite place to dine on campus is Frank Dining Hall, as she loves all of the options they offer for every meal of the day. Before working at Colgate, Pennington received a Bachelors in Fish and Wildlife Sciences and was a scuba diver in the Adirondacks, hand-harvesting invasive plants. 

Although COVID-19 keeps us indoors to maintain the spread of the virus, it is important to always get some sort of exercise outside to stay healthy. Pennington encourages students to get outside, to stay active and hopes students want to learn more about the breakdown of each and every meal.